National Guard members pitch innovation

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. David Eichaker,
  • Michigan National Guard

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. – On March 14, through Academia, Industry, Military, Hybrid Innovations (AIM-HI), the Michigan Air National Guard and the Kelly Johnson Joint All-Domain Innovation Center sponsored the Cohort 3 Pitch Day. Guard members pitched solutions to National Guard, Air Force and Defense Department leaders. 

AIM-HI is an Air National Guard innovation program to educate military members on the process of innovation to combat near-peer threats to modernize the military.

“We are trying to make innovation tactically ready,” said Michigan Air National Guard Lt. Col. Dave Brewer, assigned to the Innovative Solutions and Disruptive Technology Division, Air Force Futures. “We combined Michigan Air National Guard, National Guard Bureau, and U.S. Air Force priorities along with other entities and lined that to the greater construct of what the National Guard can produce to the active-duty component.”

Ensuring Airmen can operate in austere locations is critical.

During Pitch Day, eight teams presented their solutions to leadership. One group suggested advancing Agile Combat Employment by using virtual reality headsets.

“We are proposing VR functions for maintenance personnel and multi-capable Airmen in the field,” said a team member pitching the idea. “Giving Airmen the resources they need at their fingertips at the moment they need it.”

The idea is to have a non-maintenance-qualified Airmen conduct maintenance while communicating remotely with a qualified maintainer via a VR headset. The maintainer views the issue from afar by headset as multi-capable Airmen physically resolve the problem.

“Virtual reality training will make Airmen more multi-capable,” said Col. James Rossi, commander, Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Michigan. “VR technology allows aircraft with a challenging maintenance issue and not having the right certified maintainer to address that issue to live feed it to a command and control center where they do have experts providing over-the-shoulder assistance to address a real problem on the ground.”

The concept of ACE is relatively new. In an environment where there is agility, there is a chance for innovation, creativity and diversity of thought.

“We have an opportunity in the Michigan Air National Guard, the National All Domain Warfighting Center, and the Kelly Johnson Joint All Domain Innovation Center to help our active-duty partners and help develop what this could potentially look like,” said Lt. Col. Michael Whitefoot, with the KJJADIC.

Another proposal focused on email to leverage the capabilities of multi-domain dominance, focusing on communication across the DOD.

The proposed change is to combine Non-classified Internet Protocol (IP) Router Network (NIPRNet) and Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet) email systems while using one domain.

“Every day, we send tens of thousands of emails across the DOD,” said a team member from Dominator X who pitched this concept. “One force, one (email) domain is the concept that will lead the DOD into the future … and the change must happen.”

Brewer said participants in the program receive a certified professional innovator certificate through the University of Michigan.

“That’s what makes this a graduate-level equivalent class,” said Brewer. “It is a Michigan Air National Guard program that is in collaboration with ARCWERX and the University of Michigan for the certificate.”

Last summer, the KJJADIC was involved with the first Agile Combat Employment highway landing proof-of-concept on U.S. soil. U.S. military aircraft landed on a state highway in Northern Michigan to simulate operations in an austere environment. Support for this kind of activity will continue throughout 2022 during events at the National All-Domain Warfighting Center, with emphasis on command and control and communication.